Halfback Shaun Johnson is celebrating double delight today after not only committing his long-term future to the Vodafone Warriors but also being confirmed as the club’s captain for the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines at Eden Park on February 15 and 16.
In a huge coup, the Vodafone Warriors have fended off rival rugby league clubs as well as rugby union interest to extend the 23-year-old’s NRL career with the club to seven seasons through to the end of the 2017 season.
To cap it off the Peter Brown-managed Johnson has been handed the honour of leading the Vodafone Warriors at next weekend’s sold-out NRL Auckland Nines.
The double announcement comes as the Vodafone Warriors prepare to kick off their 2014 trials programme against the Gold Coast Titans at North Harbour Stadium today (4.00pm kick-off).
Johnson’s ecstatic about both his new contract and the captaincy appointment.
“It’s been a huge last few days sorting out my future as well as finding out I’ll be captaining the club at the very first Auckland Nines tournament,” he said.
“I can’t say enough about the job Peter (Brown) and the Vodafone Warriors have done in putting together my new contract. I absolutely love being at this club, living in Auckland and being close to family and friends.
“When I signed my last contract I said I wanted to repay everyone who has supported me and the same applies even more now.
“This club, the coaching staff and my team-mates have played a huge role in developing me while my family, friends and our members have given me fantastic support. I always want to give back to them.
“There was other interest but I love playing rugby league. There’s so much to look forward to here as we look to grow and improve and I want to be a part of that as we strive to win the club’s first NRL premiership.
“I’m also massively excited about playing in the Nines and having the experience of leading the team in front of a full house at Eden Park plus our NRL games to follow there early in the season.”
Vodafone Warriors head coach Matthew Elliott hailed Johnson’s contract extension as one of the club’s most significant achievements.
“The fact we’ve extended the contract of one of the most sought-after players around in Shaun is enormously important for our club,” he said.
“It speaks volumes for what we’re seeking to build here, not just in the quality of players we’re able to attract and retain but also in the way they’re helping to create the culture we’re striving to develop and sustain.
“Obviously Shaun is an exceptional football and athlete. He’s also represents the club well and is critical to where we’re going this season and beyond.”
Johnson announced himself to the rugby league world with two outstanding seasons in 2009 and 2010 when he scored more than 400 points in 45 games, including seven goals from seven attempts in the Vodafone Junior Warriors’ NYC grand final win in 2010.
He played 16 games in an eye-catching NRL rookie campaign in 2011 – highlighted by his appearance in the grand final – before following up with 22 appearances in 2012 and all 24 in 2013; since establishing himself in the first-grade side he has played in all but two of the Vodafone Warriors’ last 61 games.
Johnson also played in each of the Kiwis’ seven Tests in 2013 including the Rugby League World Cup final.
The Whangaparaoa-raised Johnson will be a spectator at North Harbour Stadium today as he watches his team-mates begin an intensive 15-day preseason campaign which also takes in the first-ever ‘Clash of the Warriors’ against Wigan at Waikato Stadium on Wednesday (7.30pm kick-off), the NRL Nines next weekend and the final trial against Brisbane at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium on Sunday, February 23 (3.00pm kick-off).
Born: September 9. 1990
Birthplace: Auckland, NZ
Junior Clubs: Hibiscus Coast Raiders, Northcote Tigers (Auckland)
Other Clubs: Auckland Vulcans (New South Wales Cup)
NRL Debut: Vodafone Warriors v Sydney Roosters, Sydney Football Stadium, June 4, 2011 (Round 13)
NRL Career: 62 appearances, 2011-2013
NRL Points: 249 (28 tries, 67 goals, 3 field goals)
Club Number: 168
Representative: 8 Tests for Kiwis 2012-2013, World Cup 2013, NZ v Cook Islands 2013, NRL All Stars 2013, NRL Auckland Nines 2014, Junior Kiwis, 2010